'It's not easy to get the kind of internship that one dreams of'
| July 26,2012 05:15 pm IST
Go into your internships with the least possible expectations, said our academic dean, at an address to all the students just before we left for our Management In Practice (MIP) as it is known in our institute. On your first day, if you even get a chair to sit, or a desk to work from, consider yourself very fortunate.
Expect a tough environment and go prepared to be completely neglected and side tracked. That way, you will appreciate every little comfort and attention that you get and you will be prepared for the worst that the corporate world has to throw at you.
I got a place to sit alright - a nice comfortable leather couch in the lobby of the head office of the company I was interning with. Thats where I used to spend hours waiting for my project guide to show up so that I could give him my updates and get his feedback. I was interning with a private bank and my task entailed visiting different companies in Mumbai and obtaining certain details about these companies through a questionnaire. The bank would then use this data to make sales calls at these companies. The questionnaire and the research was just eyewash to make the whole process look like an academic exercise. Of course, that was not how the project was explained to me. It was presented like a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was explained as a market research project that was a vital part of the banks new strategy. I was working with no pay and no travel allowance either. Promises of a Pre Placement Offer (PPO) and the chance to present my findings to the national head were made in an effort to motivate me (in the absence of a stipend) before I hit the dusty roads of Mumbai in the peak of summer.
The beginning was tough very tough. I made the mistake of walking around aimlessly in Andheri East (one of the biggest commercial hubs in Mumbai) entering offices and trying to meet the finance head. Needless to say, I couldnt even get past the receptionist! So I changed my strategy and started making phone calls to these companies in the hope of getting prior appointments. Took several attempts to get my first appointment, but it was worth it. At least I knew exactly where to go to get the data and was sure I would get it. Pretty soon, with some practice and experience, it was not difficult to get a couple of appointments everyday on an average. The visits were mostly productive. I had to change the questionnaire to make it look more academic. The original one was too blunt and failed to put the respondents at ease. The daily grind of getting appointments and travelling in a city like Mumbai was not easy. Some would say that all this is part of the learning.
That talking convincingly on the phone, getting executives to respond to the questions etc. teaches one to be street smart. Im not too sure thats what I want to learn from an MBA internship. I was hoping my role would be more strategic one that required me to connect the concepts learned in the classroom, to real life business situation. However, I did learn a lot about various industries during my interviews with the finance executives of different companies. Some of them really opened up and were more than happy to go beyond the questionnaire and give me details about their companies and business processes. By this time I had completely changed the questionnaire.
It was more structured and had a clear objective. I planned to conduct a parallel research of my own to present in college. The bank didnt seem to mind as long as I could get them the financial data they were looking for. My project guide was an extremely busy man and it was next to impossible to get to meet him, but he was always available on the phone and that helped.
As an MBA student in India, it is not easy to get the kind of internship that one dreams of. There are just far too many MBA students out there, and too few companies to absorb them. However every situation presents an opportunity to learn and no learning is a waste. In case you are wondering, Im still awaiting my PPO (though Id happily accept my travel reimbursement instead!)